Literary Techniques in the Poetry of Homer

“The Odyssey” is one of only a few epics still in existence today. An epic is a long narrative poem which focuses on the lives and struggles of a great hero or heroes. Homer used many literary techniques to make his poetry more fully understood. He was very versed in his Greek gods and uses them as great heroes.

“The Odyssey” was written approximately 2500 years ago. Top scholars have spent much time attempting to confirm who created these epics, “The Odyssey” and “The Iliad”, when they were written, and where they were written. These scholars have made their educated guesses, however they are not all in agreement as to exactly where these two masterpieces have come from.

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Today scholars are still disputing over who really wrote “The Odyssey” and “The Iliad”. There are notable differences between the two as far as the language and the styles. This difference has forced some scholars to the conclusion that maybe the epics were authored by a group of people verses a single authorship. Those who hold to this belief feel this way because the “The Odyssey” is less heroic and more lifelike. The majority, however, favor the opinion that both “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” were in fact authored by a single person and that single person being a man named Homer. They believe that the differences in his style can be attributed to his advancing years and that the more passionate “Iliad” was a work of his youth.

The people of Greece hold to the belief that a man named Homer wrote both “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey”. No one is sure of his birthplace. There are seven different Grecian cities who claim to be the birthplace of Homer and his home. The most common belief is that Homer came from the island of Chios, which is just off the western coast of Asia Minor.

It is believed that Homer was a veteran rhapsode. A rhapsode being a poet who performs his work without reading it. Homer, more than likely, dictated his works to a scribe who penned his incredible works of poetry.

Homer is believed to have been a blind man. This is based on his character, Demodocus, the blind singer in the “Homeric Hymns”. It is also a fact that in ancient times many rhapsodes, performers such as Homer, were in fact blind and therefore memorized their works.

As to the date that these epics were written there is once again considerable differences in opinion. By looking at the political events, his styles, his language, etc, most believe these to have been written somewhere between 600 BC and 700 BC. “The Iliad” was written first and Homer followed up by writing “The Odyssey”.

Homer holds an interesting attitude toward death in his works, particularly in “The Odyssey”. He writes some very moving passages with regard to the death of many of the lesser heroes. He never lets up on getting the point across that lesser heroes are nothing in comparison to the greater heroes who have killed them.

As to the truth of the two epics no one is sure. There has been a site found by archaeological research that may indeed be the site of this great Homeric city. This city would be the site of the siege of Troy in “The Iliad” and the occasion of the wanderings of Odysseus in “The Odyssey”. It is possible that was trouble between two groups of people who inhabited the shores of the Aegean Sea but it is all unknown to history. Whatever the truth be of these two epics, we can rely on the fact that there was a lot of legend in the epics written by Homer.

Throughout Homer’s writings one will see continued use of a literary device called formulas. Formulas are stock phrases or descriptions that express a given idea and then is regularly repeated throughout the course of the narrative. Some examples of this device are “far-darting Apollo”, “rosy-fingered dawn”, and “swift-footed Achilles”. Homer also used formulas to describe repeated actions such as “He spoke these winged words” to describe initiation of a speech.

Homer also used symbolism and imagery as an instrument for describing in his works. Generally a poet will use a word or group of words which carry a much bigger meaning, this is a symbol. An image, on the other hand, is a word or a group of words devised to bring out sense impression of the reader. Sometimes images become symbols by association.

Despite all the disagreements and divided beliefs, one thing is sure. These two writings, “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” are respected masterpieces. The two stand as pillars in the world of literature still today. It started with the Greeks and the Europeans and has continued gaining it’s popularity until the whole world uses these as examples of epic literature. Homer’s epics are second only to the “Holy Bible” in world popularity. So no matter who wrote them, where they were written, and when they were written, they have impacted the world as no other pieces of literature have and have become a centerpiece in epic literature.


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Literary Techniques in the Poetry of Homer. (2018, Oct 07). Retrieved from